Adventures of a Lifetime

It’s not hard to put together a list of classic encounters with the natural world: journeying across the Serengeti, swimming in the Great Barrier Reef, trekking up Mount Kilimanjaro. But the adventures on our list go a step further, helping us discover our place on this planet. From the ancient hunting rituals of the Kalahari Bushmen to the migration trails of polar bears, these ten trips are sure to awe and inspire.

By Jeff Hull

Photo by Taylor Kennedy (Getty Images)

Witness Abundance
Great congregations of wild animals give thrilling glimpses into those natural forces that operate beyond human interference: the Chesapeake Bay’s horseshoe crab spawn; sandhill cranes collecting in Nebraska; songbirds migrating through Lake Erie’s Point Pelee; and salmon runs through Seattle. State fish and game departments ( can point you in the right direction.

Employ the Scientific Method
Pitch in on a field research project and spend time absorbing the rich contents of a scientific mind. Researchers employ volunteers for days, weeks, or months at a time. Approach a nearby university or, to wander farther afield, contact Earthwatch ( For a small fee, you can participate in world­wide studies of Mongolian wild sheep, Zambezi crocodiles, and more.  

Enter Rehab
Participating in the recovery of an animal injured by heedless human activity connects you to the wild heart. Check The Wildlife Rehabilitation Directory ( or your state wildlife agency for options near you.

Document the Rhythms
Photograph a natural place through its cycle of seasons or its various weather phenomena. Try to shoot
the exact same frame at regular periods for a year. In addition to revealing the subtle changes of time, returning to the same landscape will enrich your relationship to it. 

Return to Gathering
Mushrooms, asparagus, strawberries, mint, rice, huckleberries, herbs—all of these foods and more grow wild in various areas of the country.  Find out what’s ripening near you, and then take a day trip to tromp around in the fields and gather enough to make a meal—or several.

Track Down Your Dinner
Did you know that, worldwide, beef production creates more greenhouse gases than the transportation industry? Research where your food comes from, how it’s grown, what was displaced to produce it, and how far it travels to you—à la Michael Pollan in The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

Swap Sweat for Grub
Sign up for a local Community Supported Agriculture or community garden and spend time working in the dirt in exchange for food. Be reminded firsthand of how rich and fecund the earth is—and reap great, local
and usually organic foods to munch on after your weeks of tilling.

Count Birds, Not Sheep
Anybody can lend a hand and contribute to the National Audubon Society’s annual Great Backyard Bird Count—even without a field guide and binoculars. Last year, more than 80,000 people submitted checklists for the ornithologists’ snap­shot of bird distribution in North America (

Clean Water
Trout Unlimited ( and American Rivers ( are two groups that organize stream rehabilitation or river cleanup projects nationwide. And, of course, there’s Plenty favorite Chad Pregracke; his Living Lands and Waters ( team sweeps through the Mississippi and other
major rivers.

Read the Eco classics 
Don’t have time to explore the Arctic? Experience for yourself the words that informed and inspired the movement to save it and the rest of the natural world. A short list to get you started: Walden, A Sand County Almanac, Silent Spring, Song for the Blue Ocean, The Monkey Wrench Gang, Arctic Dreams, and The Lorax.

Camp in the Backyard
The old childhood favorite helps to regain that awe-inspired perspective on all things natural. It never grows, well, old.  

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Issue 25

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